Why We Observe The Fast Of The Firstborn Before Passover

If No One's Fasting, What’s The Point Of Taanit Bechorot?

Beth Lesch
Beth Lesch


Are you fasting today? The rabbis declared that the day before Passover, Erev Pesach, would be an eternal fast day known as Ta’anit Bechorot, the Fast of the Firstborn. Taanit Bechorot commemorates the tenth and final plague in the Passover story – when God killed all of the firstborn Egyptians, but spared those of the Israelites.

But... what’s interesting about Taanit Bechorot is that most firstborns don’t actually fast.

There are lots of ways to “get around” the fast. Many people avail themselves of this command to be a part of another tradition, the seudat mitzvah, a special kind of religious meal, whose joy actually overrides the fast. Sure, the day before Pesach is busy and we’ve got to eat to keep up our strength, but… that still leaves us kind of confused.

So, if no one's fasting before Passover, why are we even celebrating the Fast of the Firstborn? Is Ta’anit Bechorot supposed to mean something to us? Even if we’re not fasting, should we be observing it in some other way? What should we be thinking about on this day?

Join us as we explore this unique question by reexamining the language used to describe God’s firstborn child, the Israelites – and never think of Taanit Bechorot the same way again.

Watch Rabbi Fohrman's video: "Passover: What Does It Mean To Be Chosen?"

Read Rabbi Fohrman's book: "The Exodus You Almost Passed Over"